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Republicans Face Huge Backlash After Threatening to Impeach Newly-Elected Supreme Court Justice

Republicans Face Huge Backlash After Threatening to Impeach Newly-Elected Supreme Court Justice

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz won election to the court on April 4, 2023. (Court chamber photo via Shutterstock. Protasiewicz photo via Facebook.)

By Pat Kreitlow

September 7, 2023

Janet Protasiewicz trounced conservative Dan Kelly less than six months ago. Now Republicans have talked about using impeachment to nullify her election before she’s heard a single case—and they’re facing serious blowback.

Some Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature are expressing hesitancy about reports they may try to impeach newly-elected Justice Janet Protasiewicz, an acknowledgement of the national backlash they’re receiving for even considering the idea of nullifying an election of someone who has yet to hear a single case.

Some Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature are expressing hesitancy about reports they may try to impeach newly-elected Justice Janet Protasiewicz, an acknowledgement of the national backlash they’re receiving for even considering the idea of nullifying an election of someone who has yet to hear a single case.

“I would like to share that I do believe in the voters,” Rep. Amy Binsfeld (R-Sheboygan) wrote to a constituent who posted an image of the letter to Twitter (now branded as X). “I feel impeachment is a high level act that should never be taken lightly and not for political gain. At this time, I am not directly aware of a crime.”

The talk of  impeachment was never based on a crime, only displeasure that Protasiewicz expressed the view that Wisconsin’s current political maps are “rigged,” a widely-accepted acknowledgement that Republicans created the most gerrymandered maps in the country—based on studies as well as election results showing the GOP with much wider margins in the state Assembly and Senate than indicated by their performance in statewide races.

Earlier this week, Protasiewicz released a May 31 letter from the Wisconsin Judicial Commission informing her it had dismissed several complaints filed against her. Protasiewicz has consistently said that her view on the current maps should not be conflated with how she would rule on the legal merits of any individual case that would come before her. Nevertheless, Republicans are demanding she recuse herself from new lawsuits challenging the legality of the legislative maps.

“She shouldn’t have said what she did, but she did,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) last week. “And now she has to own it.”

Vos stopped short of saying he will bring any articles of impeachment up for a vote.

“I’m not saying it’s definitely happening. But we have to take a look at it.”

Democrats and progressive groups have pledged a multi-million dollar effort to hold  Republican legislators accountable for a potential impeachment vote, arguing it’s  nothing more than an attempt to nullify the results of an election they didn’t like the outcome of. Protasiewicz handily defeated conservative former Justice Dan Kelly in April by an 11-point margin.

“Politicians should not be overturning elections because they don’t like the results or the outcome,” said Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D-Madison) at a state Capitol news conference. “We cannot let Robin Vos and Wisconsin’s Republicans get away with this unconstitutional, unprecedented power grab in our state.”

“Republicans are holding a political nuclear football,” said Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler, who argued the impeachment threat amounts to political extortion.

While Vos and GOP leaders could move to impeach in the coming days,there is not a unified level of zeal among GOP lawmakers, who are starting to field  questions about the matter from constituents.

“At this time, that action is not something I’m considering,” Sen. Rachael Cabral Guevara responded to a constituent, according to another social media post

Republicans have a 64-35 majority in the Assembly and it would only take 50 votes to impeach. They control 22 of the 33 seats in the state Senate, giving them exactly the number they’d then need to convict and remove Protasiewicz from office.

Conviction is not necessarily the point, however. The state constitution says an impeached jurist is essentially suspended until a Senate trial and conviction. If Senate Republicans were to drag their feet on a trial, Protasiewicz would remain in legal limbo. This would not be a new tactic for senators who are still sitting on more than 150 various nominations from Gov. Tony Evers, now into his second term.

Despite the tough talk from Vos, however, his rhetoric hasn’t been matched by his Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg).

“To impeach someone, they would need to do something very serious,” LeMahieu told WISN-TV when Protasiewicz was elected. “We are not looking to start the impeachment process as a regular occurring event in Wisconsin.”

Author

  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

CATEGORIES: POLITICS
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